Love of My Life February 3, 2015 | 0 Comments
By FIT Interactive
The loss of cognitive abilities is not the same as a loss of personhood. Seeing the whole “person” and not just their dementia makes the difference between having dementia and living fully with dementia. To live fully includes being meaningfully engaged and experiencing purpose and self-worth in daily life as well as having emotional connections to others. These are essential components of emotional well-being at any stage of dementia.
FIT Kits® dementia engagement products are designed especially to help spark emotional connections, engagement, and fun. Because all FIT Kit products are extensively field tested with people living with dementia and family members, we get to share in many dear and heartwarming moments with them. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, special memories of some loving experiences come to mind.
One couple we worked with lived in a continuing care retirement community. Because we didn’t ask permission to tell their story, we’ll call them Mary and Joe. They had been married over 50 years and had worked together nearly as long. Mary told me that Joe was the love of her life. Joe was now living with dementia and, since he was no longer ambulatory, lived in the nursing home section of the retirement community. Mary had an apartment in a different section and spent many hours every day with him. Because Joe no longer initiated things to do or discussions, Mary thought he couldn’t do anything. They spent long parts of each day just sitting quietly together.
People living with dementia can continue to do and enjoy many things – they just need help getting engaged. To get ideas about what type of things they might find engaging and interesting, I ask lots of questions to find out what they enjoyed doing in the past. While they worked in an artistic field together, Mary said what she enjoyed most was Joe’s bright smiles. She rarely got to see him smile these days. After watching them interact for a while, I realized that Joe wasn’t able to visually see her. Mary sat next to him in his wheelchair, and with Joe’s limited head mobility, he couldn’t turn his head to see her.
I asked Mary to move where she was sitting and sit across the table from him instead. Once she had moved, Mary leaned across the table to hold both of Joe’s hands. The touch caused Joe to lift his head and SEE Mary. Joe broke out into a big, bright smile as did Mary along with some tears of joy. It was a precious moment of emotional connection. Mary became animated and started describing some of the things they had designed together. The emotional connection and her animation sparked Joe to reach out to some drawing materials on the table and begin to sketch; something Joe had not done in a long time according to Mary. Mary realized what he was drawing and started laughing.
The love they still shared was shining bright that day. All it took was finding something that emotionally connected them both. I felt blessed when leaving the community that afternoon. Through developing dementia engagement products and getting to work with people living with dementia and their families and friends means I experience lots of these types of emotional connections and engagement. Our work at FIT is truly a labor of love. Happy Valentine’s Day!